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Call for Papers and Kick-off Conference Research Group: From Disorder to Order

On October 20 and 21, 2016, Leiden University will host an international conference under the title "From Disorder to Order: Conflict and the Resources of Legitimacy". Scholars from (a.o.) history, political science, anthropology, cultural studies, sociology and law are invited to submit paper proposals. The organizing project group is financed by the Leiden profile area Political Legitimacy.

Keynote speakers

Monica Toft (University or Oxford) and Sergio Aguayo (Colegio de México/Harvard University)


In contexts of conflict, expansive violence or other forms of disorder, different types of counter-state actors may appear and win legitimacy among the population with the provision of material and immaterial goods and services. Extremist and insurgent groups, such as rebels, terrorists, guerrilla fighters, warlords and self-proclaimed police forces (autodefensas) take over functions normatively assigned to the sovereign state. Counter-state actors become a source of security, health, identitymaking and belonging, financing, and other forms of emancipation. By doing so, counter-state actors restore some sense of order within disorder, and are recognised as legitimate authorities.

Even if counter-state actors can themselves be the very source of coercion or violence over larger groups, they can also be perceived as charismatic leaders, or be deeply admired and celebrated in popular culture. This is so because counter-state actors can be perceived as an ‘alternative’ to weak and inefficient governments, or as a legitimate representative of specific grievances or marginalised groups. The use of violence and insurgency may also underline a larger, shared desire for reshaping the foundations of society, or to discipline a predatory or repressive state. In many ways, counter-state actors can be seen as agents striving for some kind of emancipation or social utopia. How do counter-state actors attain legitimacy? What sort of mechanisms or resources do they employ? What categories or beliefs do they appeal to other than coercion or violence to substantiate this legitimacy?

This conference focuses on the study of competing systems of legitimacy between state actors and their opponents. The conference seeks to integrate a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together academics from history, political science, anthropology, cultural studies, sociology and law drawing on specific case studies across place and time. The conference aims to analyse specific cases within larger theoretical debates on political legitimacy, state formation, statehood, and cultural production. Ultimately, the conference will bring together a group of scholars to produce jointly a special issue of the journal of Small Wars & Insurgencies.

Call for Papers

Scholars are invited to submit paper proposals on these themes. We would like to receive proposals until 15 August 2016. Proposals should include a paper title, a short abstract of 200 words and the institutional affiliation of the author(s). These can be submitted to Ms. Karla Medrano at k.v.medrano[at]hum.leidenuniv.nl. At the start of September we will notify on the paper proposals that have been accepted. 


This conference is organised by the research group ‘From Disorder to Order: Counter-
Societies and the Resources of Legitimacy’, financed by the profile area Political
 at Leiden University and supported by the The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences KNAW. 
For further inquiries, please contact:
Dr. Jose Carlos G. Aguiar
Prof. dr. Isabelle Duyvesteyn

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